artists & participants
After learning of the grand jury's decision to not indict Daniel Pantaleo, Smack Mellon postponed a planned exhibition in order to respond to the continued failure of the United States to protect its black citizens from police discrimination and violence. In order to channel our outrage into actions that can facilitate systemic change, Smack Mellon's gallery space will be used to present events, performances and artworks that affirm that black lives matter, express frustration and anger with the institutional racism that enables law enforcement to kill black members of the community with impunity, and imagine creative solutions and visionary alternatives to a broken justice system.
Smack Mellon's current Studio Artists Esteban del Valle, Molly Dilworth, Oasa DuVerney, Ira Eduardovna, Steffani Jemison, and Dread Scott worked with Smack Mellon staff as lead organizers of RESPOND.
Over 600 artists working at all levels and in all media submitted work for the large exhibition that serves as the focal point of RESPOND. More than 200 voices of artists living across the country and internationally from seven countries were selected and will be represented in sculpture, video, and two-dimensional work—including emerging artists, mid-career artists, and young people exhibiting side-by-side.
Esteban del Valle, a Smack Mellon studio artist and muralist with Groundswell, will work on a mural with local teens to be included in the exhibition. Other works include: Heather Hart’s participatory drawing Skinned, where she invites visitors to press a piece of gold leaf onto the prepared surface of the drawing in exchange for a wish, responding specifically to the context of police violence; Mel Chin’s 1993 prototype of Night Rap, a weapon/tool hybrid made from an actual enforcement officer’s nightstick; and Nina Berman’s photograph Funeral for Jose Luis Lebron, 1990. Nina’s description of this image sums things up: On January 31, 1990 at 5:30 pm, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York Police Officer Frank Albergo shot and killed 14-year-old Jose Luis Lebron, who was unarmed. An autopsy showed that Lebron was shot squarely in the back of the head. Albergo had been chasing Lebron for allegedly having robbed someone of $10.00 and claimed Lebron had been reaching for a gun. Eyewitnesses told a different tale. Four days earlier, also in Brooklyn, another police officer, shot and killed 17-year-old unarmed Louis Liranso. The two shootings touched off protest marches in Brooklyn. Both officers were cleared of any wrong doing. At Lebron's funeral family member were overcome by grief and some tried to jump into the gravesite. The 2014 killings of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, currently in the news, top a long list of similar shootings by the NYPD that have been going on for decades. With each new killing, old cases fall deeper down the list, and are quickly forgotten except by family members and loved ones. Jose Luis Lebron is one of those cases.
Smack Mellon's 5,000 square foot gallery is being provided to community organizers, activists, artists, writers and performers to organize, collaborate, speak, perform, teach, lead and act.
Events will continue to be planned and presented throughout the run of the exhibition. A calendar of events will be updated regularly on our website, www.smackmellon.org.